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Red60
December 6th, 2007, 11:21 PM
I would like some feedback on the following narrative: Last spring I swam in my first masters meets. I had trained pretty hard, mostly on my own, and felt good heading into competition. At zones I swam the 50, 100, 200 and 500 free, plus some offstroke stuff for fun. I did okay, but did not break a minute in the 100 (went 1:02) which had been my goal.

So I got hooked up with a coach, who identified that my timing was not so good. That is, my catch and pull were happening too quickly, so my stroke was inefficient. My arms were sort of windmilly. [technical term, that] He worked with me to rebuild my stroke pretty much from scratch. It got more efficient, but the timing has been off the other way: that is, I feel like my hands are marooned out in front of me for too long. I have been swimming in this "catch up" mode while trying to adjust the timing.

I have been working on this for SIX MONTHS. I have not been able to make the intervals I had been making last spring, but have thought that it was only a question of time, or will.

So last weekend I swam in my first meet since this process began. I was able to almost match my 50 time from last spring (adjusted from SCM) but my 100 was terrible. My second 50 was 5 seconds slower than my first 50. I felt like I was swimming in slow motion. So on the drive home I resolved to adjust--maybe I wouldn't actually be a sprinter anymore, and with my new slower stroke I'd shift to distance events. So the last several days I have been swimming longer sets. But here's the thing: I can only make the "efficient" stroke work well for 50 yards or so by aggressively accelerating the catch; after that, the natural catch-up rhythm of the stroke takes over, and I slow down and feel crappy.

Tonight out of frustration I did a quick set of 50s and almost by accident I slipped back in to my bad old rhythm and suddenly I felt way quicker and stronger, if not as efficient. I ripped off a few 100s and was faster and less tired, although I could tell that my stroke was less pretty.

I feel like I'm losing my mind. Has anyone ever tried to work on technique to their detriment? I think I can work incrementally on lengthening my stroke from my "bad" timing better than I can accelerate from my new slow timing. But who knows? I have been so committed to trying to figure this out, but feel like I am moving backwards. Once upon a time I was somewhat fast (high 22s in the 50, 50 flat in the 100). Am I nuts? Am I an idiot? Am I an aqua-dork? Help!

The Fortress
December 7th, 2007, 10:53 AM
The pretty catch up stroke is not for everyone. I have a fairly straight arm freestyle when I sprint. I can't sprint with the high elbow pretty catch up stroke. I compromise by using the pretty technique when I am swimming more slowly or longer distances in practice. But all speed work is done with my natural sprint stroke which give me a high stroke rate and good rhythm. I think, although not all agree, that the method recovery on freestyle is a "different strokes for different strokes" kind of thing.

On another thread, the wookiee said there was a "correct" way to do straight arm freestyle to avoid injury. I'm not sure what that is myself ... Have you had any shoulder injuries? The pure windmill style does look somewhat hard on the shoulders to me.

Have a talk with your coach. Pretty strokes do not always translate into fast strokes for everyone. I have changed many things about my technique, but not this.

I'm sure it's very frustrating to work so hard on a stroke change to go slower. Maybe there will come a point when it will be faster? I don't know on that score, as I'm not a coach. Good luck. Try not to be discouraged.

geochuck
December 7th, 2007, 11:02 AM
Did you really think you slipped into your old style or is your stroke improved and doing it properly.

quicksilver
December 7th, 2007, 11:43 AM
Has anyone ever tried to work on technique to their detriment?



Experimentation is a good exercise. But we all have our own style.
I tried the delayed hand pull concept when I first got back into swimming...and I found that it threw the timing off for sprinting.


Keeping the lead hand out front is good. But!... It should start pulling back by the time your dry arm gets in line with your shoulder.
Otherwise your timing might slow down. Your coach was lending sound advise however.


Catch-up style is best suited for the distance people in my opinion.
However... catch-up drills are an excellent way to teach you how to develop reach...and thereby maxes out your body line in the water.

Your sprinting should improve when you use a strong turn over.. using long strokes. George might have a point. A combination of your rotary stroke with the extended reach may have done some good.

Allen Stark
December 7th, 2007, 12:17 PM
In 2003 I went to the Masters Camp at the Olympic Training Center and totally remade my breaststroke. It was 6 mo before I was swimming nearly as fast as I was before,but 3 mo later I was much faster,so it can take time.On the other hand,many coaches don't seem to realize that sprinting and sprinters are different.Maybe that style isn't suited for your strengths.Could you post a video of yourself swimming both ways and let us have a look.

swimr4life
December 7th, 2007, 04:09 PM
My coach used to always say, "You have to go slower before you can go faster." :doh:While that sounds pretty basic, it is a very wise statement. I agree with Allen. Give yourself time to adapt your stroke. Muscle memory and old habits are hard things to change.

gull
December 7th, 2007, 04:50 PM
I read somewhere that it takes 100,000 yards to change your stroke. I think it may take longer for Masters swimmers. I have found video to be very helpful. I have also used underwater mirrors which allow you to watch your catch, pull, rotation, etc.

Paul Smith
December 7th, 2007, 05:08 PM
In many ways it would be no different than deciding today to change which hand you have written with your entire life....you will have to go very slow, it will be extremely ugly and frustrating but ultimately it can be done and even feel "comfortable".

Very few people have that kind of patience and determination....especially in our sport where the general mind set is "more is better" and God forbid I don't hit my weekly yardage!

By the way Red60...based on "what" have you decided that your a sprinter? Not being a smart as.. just pointing out that our natural strengths sometimes get overlooked and very possibly your more suited to middle distance/distance? or maybe not?

smontanaro
December 7th, 2007, 07:14 PM
There's an article in this week's Newsweek about memory and aging ("Jogging Your Memory (http://www.newsweek.com/id/73356)"). While the focus is on memorizing facts like your Aunt Mable's phone number or your MasterCard number, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find formation of new muscle memories to similarly be affected as we age.

Skip Montanaro

3strokes
December 7th, 2007, 07:53 PM
While the focus is on memorizing facts like your Aunt Mable's phone number...............

Skip Montanaro

What does one do if one does not have an aunt named Mable (Mabel?)?:dunno:

Red60
December 8th, 2007, 10:05 AM
Thanks for your responses, all. I thought about your comments as I swam yesterday. Yes, the work I have done since last May has value, and the greater efficiency will serve me well. My rotation is better, my "long vessel" is better.

I experimented yesterday with both approaches to identify the timing issue, and I think I've isolated the key problem, which is where my "catch" arm is when my opposite stroke arm enters the water. (I have been pondering how to explain this.) Superimpose a clock face on a freestyle swimmer going left to right, or swimming toward three o'clock. In my bad old timing, my catch arm would be pulling and be at around 7 o'clock. In my slow new timing, my catch arm is tardy, and is around 3:30 or 4 when my other arm hits.

I think I should be at 5:00 or 5:30 to best exploit the catch/forward throw of the opposite arm. Is this correct?

I think I have to go back to drilling for awhile, and focus only on this timing problem. I have made a lot of progress, and I am definitely well past Gull's 100,000 yards. My frustration is real, but narrowing the problem in this way has really helped.

Paul, I was a sprinter 28 years ago, when last I swam in high school. I'm not married to that identity, and it's possible that middle distance or distance will make more sense.

Is this clock face metaphor descriptive, and if so, is my assessment more or less correct? I welcome more wisdom from you!

Thanks again
Red

The Fortress
December 8th, 2007, 11:24 AM
In many ways it would be no different than deciding today to change which hand you have written with your entire life....you will have to go very slow, it will be extremely ugly and frustrating but ultimately it can be done and even feel "comfortable".

Very few people have that kind of patience and determination....especially in our sport where the general mind set is "more is better" and God forbid I don't hit my weekly yardage!

By the way Red60...based on "what" have you decided that your a sprinter? Not being a smart as.. just pointing out that our natural strengths sometimes get overlooked and very possibly your more suited to middle distance/distance? or maybe not?

Paul,what's your test for determining whether someone is a sprinter or not?

geochuck
December 9th, 2007, 08:49 AM
I was always a believer of you have to train fast to swim fast. Slow swimminng a fast swimmer never made.


My coach used to always say, "You have to go slower before you can go faster." :doh:While that sounds pretty basic, it is a very wise statement. I agree with Allen. Give yourself time to adapt your stroke. Muscle memory and old habits are hard things to change.

Paul Smith
December 9th, 2007, 11:15 AM
Paul,what's your test for determining whether someone is a sprinter or not?

Fort...I don't think its black and white but I do think we have a genetic predisposition towards one end of the spectrum. I think one of the things that could be done better in sports is better identifying what way you are leaning genetically and build on that...I know there are a number of tests that can establish this such as reaction times, vertical jump, etc. etc.

The reason I brought this up is to often athletes and/or coaches simply make a visual determination and never really nail it...case in point being me. Because of my build/body type the assumption is I'm a sprinter when the reality is I'm much more in the realm of a middle distance swimmer.

In most masters workouts where I see 2+ "groups" (distance and say sprint) I see the "slower" swimmers get settled in with the "sprint" group because of the shorter distance and typically easier intervals when they should be in a distance lane that accommodates their speed and fitness level.

Conversely I see natural "sprinters" go to the animal lane because they may be very fit and the "peer pressure" to train with that group....but they should be doing high quality speed work.

I tend to train in the lane/group that suits the particular phase I am in of training (periodization...right now doing long, slow distance)....this causes a bit of concern in the sprint lanes when I move over a bit latter in the season!

swimr4life
December 10th, 2007, 09:18 AM
I was always a believer of you have to train fast to swim fast. Slow swimminng a fast swimmer never made.


George, I think you misunderstood what I was saying. What I meant was that if you are making a major change in your stroke, your times would slow down for a while until your body adapted to the changes. I agree with you about training slow = competing slow but, you do need to slow down at first when you are trying to change your stroke. After your body has "got it" you can hopefully translate your change to speed.

Red60
January 2nd, 2008, 10:25 PM
I thought I would provide an update on this thread, which I launched early last month in a full-throated whine, exasperated by my failure to adapt my improved, more efficient stroke to any kind of racing tempo. I swam in a meet December 1 & 2 and did poorly, having spent 6 months rebuilding my stroke with the help of a coach.

Well I took the better part of two weeks off (swam once each week) and got back in the pool to give it another shot. Finally, I think I have it figured out! My "new" stroke involves a much higher elbow on the way in, more stretch forward than I have done before, and an earlier catch. I have to pull the trigger on the catch earlier than I was, but not so early as to lose the "climbing over the rocks in the water" thing. I have been feeling it for the past few drill-oriented workouts, and tonight I managed to do 10 x100 at a modest tempo at good speed--the first time I got the stroke to work when tired. I definitely feel more powerful in the water. So now I think I can actually train again. Woo hoo! To those who counseled patience, thank you. It really helped. Now let's see about those NQTs...